Mastercard (NYSE: MA) continues to push the envelope when it comes to helping blockchain and cryptocurrency be more readily usable as payments. Just a couple months ago they announced their Mastercard Crypto Credential program, which was designed to set common standards and infrastructure that will foster trusted interactions among consumers and businesses.
Now, they’ve announced their Multi-Token Network (MTN), “a set of foundational capabilities designed to make transactions within digital asset and blockchain ecosystems secure, scalable, and interoperable – ultimately enabling more efficient payment and commerce applications.”
What Mastercard Hopes to Achieve with the MTN
Mastercard is looking to bring trust and adoption into the blockchain space, especially as a payments system. As Jorn Lambert, the Chief Digital Officer at Mastercard said in a recent interview, “The true intrinsic value of blockchain, which is around programmability of transactions, immutability of transactions, and the ability to do delivery versus payment and always-on types of payments, has yet to be unlocked.”
Beginning in the third quarter of 2023, the beta version of the MTN will be available in the United Kingdom. The UK will then act as a testing ground for developing live pilot applications and use cases with traditional finance actors such as banks, fintechs, and financial institutions. These initial applications will be powered by tokenized bank deposits (think stablecoins), and assuming they’re successful the MTN will become available to more parts of the world. Mastercard believes there are four pillars of trust that the MTN needs to meet in order to be viable.
The Four Pillars of Trust
- Trust in counterparty: Effective self-identity management and permissions are essential to building trusted networks. The aforementioned Mastercard Crypto Credential offers a set of common verification standards and infrastructure, in turn enabling trusted interactions among consumers and businesses using blockchain networks. Mastercard has been working with several partners on an initial project to enable transfers on public blockchains, and Mastercard’s recent work in the Australian CBDC pilot uses the same technology to secure CBDC transactions on public blockchains.
- Trust in digital payment asset: Stable, regulated, and scalable payment tokens are essential to powering blockchain payment applications. Last year, Mastercard tested the use of tokenized commercial bank deposits between multiple financial institutions, settling through their existing network. They also joined a group of market participants to explore a tokenized deposit platform through a concept called the Regulated Liability Network (RLN). Mastercard hopes the MTN will support and complement these efforts by enabling regulated payment tokens to power financial applications.
- Trust in technology: Scalability of blockchain networks and their interoperability are critical technologies required for safe transfers of tokens and assets. Mastercard’s work with the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) demonstrates how CBDCs issued by the RBA can be used to make seamless purchases of assets from allow-listed entities on the public blockchain. MTN aims to offer these capabilities across all supported payment tokens and networks in a scalable manner.
- Trust in consumer protections: MTN will utilize Mastercard’s years of experience developing standards and rules for its card network to provide a common framework for a community of blockchain users with shared interests. This includes clear rules that prioritize strong consumer protections, stability, and regulatory compliance.
A Necessary Step in Digital Asset Adoption
There are likely some that are worried about the role a traditional finance player like Mastercard may have in shaping the future of blockchain, but it’s a bit of a necessity. It’s going to be hard to convince any bigger actor to buy into blockchain technology if the systems they have to use are run by random people around the world.
While decentralization of networks is incredibly important, until there’s total trust in them by a large variety of parties, they won’t be viable as a global payment system. The MTN, while not necessarily the solution many would want, is a good stepping stone in proving blockchain’s viability as a means to move and keep track of value.